The Hani I Elezit region of Kosovo is one of the country’s most deprived areas, with youth unemployment at 70% and limited opportunities for employment and economic development. To enhance the sustainability of communities around its operations, TITAN Kosovo created the Laboratori për Aktivitete të Biznesit (LAB), the first private–public institution in the country operating to international governance standards and promoting entrepreneurship, quality education and access to finance.
LAB is the incubator for new and innovative ideas, primarily for agroforestry businesses, and for introducing modern farming techniques that can intensify production to meet market demand. During the last two years, LAB has already started to show tangible positive results, particularly on employment and income creation in the region.
By December 2017, LAB had helped to establish 78 new businesses across ten different agro-forestry sectors, including beekeeping, vineyards and herb production, as well as forestry, livestock farming, greenhouse production and other agricultural sub-sectors. Equality of opportunity is a priority for LAB, with 20% of the investments made so far going to female entrepreneurs. The flow of investment is increasing, with 28 new start-ups supported in 2017 alone.
LAB is recognized as a unique and innovative example of social engagement in the region, and its success in developing a more sustainable economy for Hani I Elezit has attracted the interest of well-respected organizations and stakeholders. This has included the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which joined forces with LAB to expand the positive impacts of their efforts in the region.